Retellings

Like most people, I am a huge fan of retellings—familiar stories, legends, or myths told in a new fantastic way. You see this happen a lot in the movies, especially with fairy tales. We’ve all heard of the story of Cinderella. How many different variations of that story have you seen or read? Me? I have seen tons! In fact one of my wife’s favorite films is a retelling Endless-Coverof Cinderella. It was cleverly titled: A Cinderella Story (I know, not too creative there.) One of my favorite Cinderella movies is Ever After. They tried to put a more historical twist to the story and make it more about friendship and invention that helps save our heroine rather than magic and a fairy godmother. One of my favorite retellings of Cinderella in book form is Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine. Even one of our Emblazon authors, Jaclyn Weist, just released another retelling of Cinderella in her new book Endless. As you can see, I can go on and on naming all the retellings of just one familiar story.

As writers we like to use the familiar story as the skeleton or premise on which to build our new telling. As readers we like the closeness we feel with retellings because they feel like an old friend.

Noah's_Ark_on_Mount_Ararat_by_Simon_de_MyleI had a wonderful experience recently reading a collection of books all based of a retelling of stories from the bible. Everyone has heard of the story of Noah’s Arc and his mission to save mankind and all the animal kingdom. I would never have thought to take that familiar story and do a retelling of it. Furthermore, I would never have thought to put the story in space and set it way in the future. How awesome does that sound? D. Robert Pease, also an Emblazon author, does just this with his fantastic books: the Noah Zarc series.

In the first book, Noah Zarc: Mammoth Trouble, we get a retelling of Noah’s mission to save the animals. But you wouldn’t guess that from its synopsis:

24fdccbbf14631708e714c88cec439b0“Noah lives for piloting spaceships through time, dodging killer robots and saving Earth’s animals from extinction. Life couldn’t be better. But the twelve-year-old time traveler learns it could be a whole lot worse. His mom is kidnapped and taken to Mars; his dad is stranded in the Ice Age; and Noah is attacked at every turn by a foe bent on destroying Earth… for the second time.”

This is such a fun story! What I like most about the main character, Noah, is that he is disabled. He can’t walk. I think this was an even better twist on a hero’s tale. How many heroes to we see or read about that are disabled? Not too many. The ones that I have read like Noah Zarc and the Farworld Series have touched me deeply. I think kids facing their own challenges can see how disabilities, large or small, can be overcome and turned into strengths.

The second book, Noah Zarc: Cataclysm, is a retelling of Moses and the exodus of his people. Again you wouldn’t get that from the synopsis:

08eb9044cd1429dc01d9f44725731fae“Thirteen-year-old Noah Zarc rockets to Venus in a quest to learn more about his past. He refuses to believe his father is really the monster everyone says he is. Could there be valid reasons for everything he’s done, including abandoning Noah at birth? While searching for answers to secrets no one wants to talk about, even those that have remained hidden for over a thousand years, Noah becomes embroiled in a mission that could cause the greatest cataclysm in the history of the solar system. Will his name, Noah Zarc, be forever linked to the most devastating crime in humanity’s existence, all because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time?”

The third book, Noah Zarc: Declaration, takes a different approach to a retelling. One that I really like! Pease takes on another familiar story just one closer in time and more connected to US citizens: a retelling of the American Revolution. Again, you wouldn’t guess that from the synopsis:

noahzarcdeclarationcover“As battles rage across the solar system, Noah must work to join together a rag-tag bunch of miners, farmers, and scientists who would rather just live in peace. With only a time-traveling ship full of animals and a general from the history books, the Zarc family has to stand against the full might of the Poligarchy. Will the truth about what really happened a thousand years in the past be enough to stop total war, or will Noah and his friends need to find another way to bring down a dictator?”

I think the key in creating any retelling is not to make the story it’s based on the largest concern in the book. Pease does an excellent job with his books because the main focus is always his main character: Noah. This is more of an emotional journey of overcoming the greatest of obstacles more than it is a just a retelling. Stories that can accomplish this become the favorites we continue to read over and over.

What are some retellings that you have enjoyed?

Keeping it Tween

A few months ago, I released my first sequel, The Gypsy Pearl 2: Craggy.  Writing something that readers were actually anticipating changed the way I looked at the writing process.  I had to be consistent.  I had to build on what the readers had come to expect after reading book 1.

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One of my avid fans after book one actually offered to beta read book 2, and that’s when I learned a valuable lesson.  In my draft, I had included some darker scenes, including a scene in which sexual violence was threatened.  The reader wrote to me saying she was disappointed that I’d chosen to write such a scene because she would not feel comfortable sharing it with her middle grade children who had so enjoyed the first book.  She admitted her standards might be conservative and apologized.

I, on the other hand, did some soul-searching.  Did I want other young readers to have to put the series down and never know the ending just because I got too edgy?  While the scene was mild by most standards, not graphic at all, it was still not appropriate for tweens.  This was when I realized that tween/middle grade and young adult are not always interchangeable.  Some stuff is better left for the bigger kids and adults. Ironically, once I’d revamped the scene to take out any innuendo or reference to sexual assault, I saw that the story would still be just fine for older readers.  The younger kids don’t need that stuff—but perhaps neither do the big kids or grown-ups!

Tween fiction is targeted to kids in those middle school years. While they may have been exposed to hormonal and/or violent interactions, it’s usually not a norm in their daily lives. Themes that dwell on such things run the risk of flying over their heads at best, or upsetting them at worst. Given that a good book draws a reader into the world of the main character, we need to ask ourselves, “Would I drag my 12-year-old into this?” If the answer is yes, we’re probably not writing for tweens. We’re writing for an older audience who will be able to distance themselves sufficiently not to be traumatized. It’s one of those tricks writers need to have: not only must we be able to get inside the head of our main characters to bring them to life, we must get inside the head of our target audience and consider how they will respond.

Call it a craft, call it a balancing act, or call it magic. It’s a wonder when it works.

What themes do you think are best left for older audiences?

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Learn more about Lia London and her writing (some tween, some young adult, some adult) at LiaLondonBooks.com or follow her on Twitter at @LiaLondon1

My Writing Journey

This is my first chance to post as a member of the Emblazoners, so I thought I’d introduce myself.

I grew up on a potato farm in Idaho, and loved reading and writing. My favorite thing to do as a senior in high school was to get my work done as a library aide and sit down to write. I would pick out a name and an animal, and just run with it. I came up with some pretty crazy concepts—one of which I still hope to publish someday.

I went to BYU and studied Early Childhood Education and met my husband, Steve, when I was a senior. We started our family soon after and within nine years, we had our six children.

In 2009, I decided to open a bookstore out in Eagle Mountain, and by November of that year, Dragons & Fairy Tales. In the year it was open, I learned so much from the authors that came out and signed at the store. So while the store didn’t last, the knowledge I gained took me on paths I never expected.

Speaking of unexpected paths … right after we closed the store, Steve got a job offer in Australia and we jumped on it. So we packed up the store and our house, and took our kids off to the Land Down Under. That’s where a lot of my writing really began.

Things were less than ideal while we were there, and I blogged about our adventures to keep me sane. When we finally came home five months later, I had enough material to write out a 73,000 word book for NaNoWriMo.

Since then I have published six books, and have so many more ideas to go. In my writing adventures, I learned several important points. I’ll list five of those below.

1. Love your cover. No, seriously, You should see the first cover I had on Stolen Luck. Google it and I’m sure you’ll find it. Why did I go with it? I wanted the book out now. I wanted a book available for Christmas and working with that cover artist was difficult, so I dealt with it.
Don’t deal with it. It’s your book. Your baby. Make sure you love the cover because you will be selling your book to other people and you don’t want the constant reminder. Believe me. You could be stuck with evil leprechauns for the rest of your life.
2. Don’t rush. Make sure edits are done well, covers are what you want, and everything is ready before you hit the submit button. I am constantly rushing into things and I regret it later. I’m thankful for those around me that remind me to slow down, enjoy the ride, and be happy with the better results.
 3. Read the contract. If you go traditional, know what that contract says. I am currently in the process of getting my rights back on a series, and a few things in the contract that I figured I would never have to deal with are the biggest obstacles right now. Find someone that knows contract law and make sure you’re not making a huge mistake.  Look at the right of first refusal, royalties, buyout options, and responsibilities for both you and your publisher.
 4. Don’t stress over things you can’t control.  Cover artists need time to create, editors need time to edit, formatters need time to format, and even printers need time to print. Take a deep breath and realize they’re doing their best to make you look good.
 5. When marketing, don’t burn yourself out. When Twist of Luck was released, I went all out on a huge blog tour, and I didn’t see a lot of return. It was still fun, and my readers enjoyed it, but I was totally burnt out at the end. Look around for fun ideas and research to see what marketing works now. My friend just did a Twitter party and it went very well. There are also Facebook launch parties, blog tours, cover reveals, and physical launch parties. Do all of them or do one or two of them. Know your schedule and what you can handle before pushing yourself into it.

Happy writing!

Thank Your Lucky Stars

FI was not born under a lucky star. I mean, I’m no astrologer, but based on life experiences, I think it’s pretty safe to say there were only regular stars floating around the night I was born. Those lucky ones waited for a different night to appear.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve had plenty of fantastic things happen in my life. And like many people, I stop to reflect on the things I’m thankful for at this time of year. I have my short list that stays pretty much the same: I’m thankful for my family, my health, my home, the things that have gone well for me this year. I’m also thankful for good books, good ice cream and spinning class (to counteract all the ice cream).

And it might sound odd, but I’m thankful for the tough things I’ve gone through, things I’ve survived and learned from. In some ways, going through an awful experience makes us that much more appreciative of the good things that come our way. Who knows, maybe getting through life without any stars in your corner makes you a stronger person.

I haven’t stopped looking for my lucky star. First star, shooting star, evening star, morning star: they’re all full of good luck as far as I can tell. But lucky stars or not, I’m thankful for all that I have and the people I get to share it with. What are you thankful for this holiday season?

SherriePetersen-SmallSherrie Petersen writes about shooting stars, wishes gone wrong and traveling through time in her debut novel, WISH YOU WEREN’T. Learn more at sherriepetersenbooks.com

We Have a Winner!

The Rafflecopter is over. We have a winner. The lucky recipient of a brand new touch screen Kindle loaded with 52 Emblazon books is…

(drum roll please)

Debra Cross!

Congratulations, Debra! We’ll be in touch.

Thanks, everyone, for making our contest a great success! If you missed it, you can still sign up for our annual catalog. The new edition is almost done and will be hitting inboxes very soon.

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Dare to Dream the Impossible Dream

Have you ever visualized a goal? If so, you are not alone.

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Dreamstime – All rights reserved.

In 1912, Native American Jim Thorpe and the others who qualified to compete for the USA in the summer Olympics headed to Stockholm on a long voyage across the Atlantic. While the others trained on ship’s deck, Jim regularly kicked back in a lounge chair, relaxing with his eyes closed.

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          A writer named Francis Albertani asked, “What are you doing, Jim? Thinking of your Uncle Sitting Bull?”
          “No,” Jim said. “I’m practicing the broad jump. I’ve just jumped 23 feet, eight inches. I think I can win it.”

Jim Thorpe actively practiced creative visualization.

          What is creative visualization? It’s like daydreaming. It’s using our minds to help us achieve our real dreams. The power of the mind can aid people to achieve their goals, to become successful, be healed of illness, manage pain, grow spiritually, or accomplish anything they wish, simply by envisioning the desired result in their mind.
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           According to Rich Avery of Life Compass Blog, “It’s not just about seeing it clearly, but hearing, smelling, and tasting it too.” He explains, “When you continuously focus on an idea or image in your mind, you program every cell in your body and mind to work toward achieving that idea or image. Once you impress it into the subconscious part of you, it eventually becomes ‘fixed’ and you automatically attract and move towards that which you desire.”
          So you want to become a successful writer? Visualize yourself finishing a book, finishing several books, and then winning awards.
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           Author and Writing Coach Jennifer Blanchard says, “I want to be a writer. So I imagine 1,000 people waiting outside a bookstore for me or that I’m signing a contract to make my book (NY Times bestseller! Nobel Prize winner!) into a movie… But visualization is more than just imagining the end product. It can help you get unstuck if you’re currently mired down in a work in progress or it can help you jump-start a new story.”
          She explains how visualizing a scene from your character’s point of view and imagining them applying the five senses to their world will help you write your story. Check out Jennifer’s blog on visualization here.
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          A guest post by Nathan Kash on the WriteToDone blog agrees how important visualization is to successful writing. “Visualization can be the single most important silver bullet in a fictional writer’s arsenal. Your goal would be to engage the reader’s five senses, which means you have to be highly descriptive. Make them see what you want them to see, hear what you want them to hear and feel what you want them to feel etc.”
          Also, check out a good post on visualizing hooks on the WriteToDone blog here.
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          Psychology Today magazine actively promotes the power of visualization. In this article, Angie LeVan says, “Mental practice can get you closer to where you want to be in life, and it can prepare you for success! For instance, Natan Sharansky, a computer specialist who spent nine years in prison in the USSR after being accused of spying for US has a lot of experience with mental practices. While in solitary confinement, he played himself in mental chess, saying: ‘I might as well use the opportunity to become the world champion!’ Remarkably, in 1996, Sharansky beat world champion chess player Garry Kasparov!”
          Research shows that for any skill, mental practice is nearly as effective as true practice. Check out the link to the study here.
          Successful people from all walks of life attain their goals through creative visualization and so can writers. It can help us get ideas, get started on a project, overcome writer’s block, finish a book, and successfully promote it. We can all achieve our dreams if we just dare to visualize it.
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          Jim Thorpe’s lounge chair visualization worked. He did win in the 1912 Olympics, taking the gold medals in both the decathlon and pentathlon.
          Creative Visualization can help you become the person you’re meant to be, so set your goals and dream of attaining those goals, over and over and over . . . until it’s they’re no longer dreams, but become reality.
          So time to start visualizing….
          What are your dreams and goals? Have you ever practiced creative visualization?

Anyone Wanna Win a Kindle?

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Attention teachers, librarians, tweens, and parents of tweens! Announcing a contest just for you…

To celebrate our first year and to treat you, our readers, we, the Emblazon authors, are giving away a brand new touch screen Kindle loaded with over 50 of our books. That’s a $300 value and hours of reading entertainment!

The Rafflecopter contest runs November 3 through November 17 and is open to anyone who loves tween literature.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Note: Signing up for our annual catalog is required for entry. Current subscribers are also eligible. Winners must reside in the United States or Canada. 

New Emblazon Release by BBH McChiller!

Listen, swabbers, to this kraken tale. 
Treasure and scoundrels and setting sail. 
Sinking ships and a ghostly wail. 
Can AJ survive, or will the beast prevail?

We’re excited to announce Legend of Monster IslandBook 3 in the Monster Moon Mystery series (for ages 8 to 12),  by BBH McChiller (Kathryn Sant and Lynn Kelley).

Special price on the eBook today and tomorrow for 99 cents:  Amazon

Also in paperbackAmazon

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Slimy tentacles slither out of the toilets and tangle with 12-year-old AJ Zantony and his younger cousin, Jasmyn, while they’re visiting Zala Manor, their great aunt’s creepy old mansion.

AJ’s buddy, Vlad, the pirate rat, stops by and pleads for help in saving his species from the creatures invading the sewers. AJ, Jaz, and their friends decide to risk everything to assist Vlad, plunging deeper into sea monster lore and facing the mysterious legends firsthand.

Is it worth sailing into an otherworldly storm and confronting evil scoundrels, scarred souls, and the most nightmarish beast imaginable? The dangers mount, increasing the chances that AJ and his friends will fall victim to the Legend of Monster Island.

Watch the book trailer:

Get the first two books, too:

Monster Moon Book 1
Curse at Zala Manor
Perfect read for Halloween!

“This tale will rattle yer timbers, squiffie,
and chill ye to the bone!” ~Vlad

Curse at Zala Manor, Monster Moon mysteries, Lynn Kelley, Lynn Kelley Author, BBH McChillerAvailable in:

Paperback:  Amazon
Hardback:  AmazonBarnes & Noble
eBook:  AmazonBarnes & NobleSmashwords (formats for all e-readers)

Monster Moon Book 2
Secret of Haunted Bog

MONSTER MOON - Show Me The Bounty!

“Beware the bog, landlubbers.
If ye venture into that haunted place,
Yer every step be filled with danger. Yarr!” ~Vlad

 Hardback:  AmazonBarnes & Noble
Paperback: Amazon
eBook:  AmazonBarnes & NobleSmashwords 

Do you like spooky, fun children’s books? What’s your favorite?

BBH Kathy and Lynn

The unusual name BBH McChiller is actually the pseudonym for two authors living in Southern California: Lynn Kelley and Kathryn Sant. The mystery series began one Halloween during a discussion at a writers’ meeting about their greatest fears and ended up being one of their most rewarding experiences.

 

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Kathryn Sant is a retired Obstetrician who has witnessed the births of thousands of future readers. She has published a middle-grade novel, Desert Chase (Scholastic), and written for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator’s newsletter. She is currently working on a middle-grade boys’ adventure novel and the next Monster Moon book. Her interest in adventure, accurate research, and genealogy has led to a love of world travel, but she also enjoys quiet evenings reading with her dogs at her side.

Lynn Kelley Author, Curse of the Double Digits, BBH McChiller, Monster Moon mysteries

Lynn Kelley worked as a court reporter for 25 years while she and her husband, George, raised their four little rascals. She was born in Pittsburgh, PA and moved to Whittier, CA at age eight. She now lives in Southern California. Most of her time involves books – either writing books, reading books, or making altered art books. The highlight of her life is time spent with her grandchildren.

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Illustrated by Emblazoner Mikey Brooks. He’s a small child masquerading as adult. On occasion you’ll find him dancing the funky chicken, singing like a banshee, and pretending to have never grown up. He is the author/illustrator of several picture books includingBEAN’S DRAGONS, the ABC ADVENTURESseries, and the author of the middle-grade fantasy-adventure novel, THE DREAM KEEPER. He spends most of his time playing with his daughters and working as a freelance illustrator. Mikey has a BS degree in Creative Writing from Utah State University. He is also one of the hosts of the Authors’ Think Tank Podcast.